Costa Rican Chicken and Black Bean Soup

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Black bean soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and I am always on the lookout for different ways to prepare it.  While researching recipes I ran across this one several years ago on what was recipezaar (now food.com).  The combination of Caribbean spices and a little heat from cayenne make for a flavor combination that is out of this world.  I decided to make the soup a more filling meal by adding a protein.  Frozen chicken breasts are an ingredient that we usually have on hand, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs or the shredded meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken would also work.

I really like to use dried beans when I have the time as they are so tasty, especially when cooked with a few flavor enhancing ingredients like bay leaves and ham hocks.  One advantage to dried black beans over other types of beans is their small size.  Because of this they don’t need to be soaked overnight.  One disadvantage to cooking dried black beans is that they can turn a rather unappetizing shade of gray.  By adding a tiny amount of baking soda to the cooking liquid you can keep them mostly black.  No matter what you do though some of the color will leach out.     If you are time crunched, substituting 4 (15-ounce) cans of drained and rinsed black beans will make the soup much quicker to get on the table.

A squeeze of lime juice across your bowl of soup is a must as this little bit of acidity really allows the flavors to shine.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro.  Serve with a salad and a Red Stripe or Caribe lager for a complete meal.

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